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Benz: Overlooked, Pitt Can Change Media Perception With One Big Season



Tim Benz on Pittsburgh Sports Now is presented by Blush Gentlemen’s Club & Sports Bar.

Let’s talk about Pitt football. College football media voting. And perception.

We’re gonna use that word a lot here.

Some Pitt fans were upset to see their Panthers rated fourth in the ACC Coastal division in the preseason media poll. That rating is too low. So they should be upset.

But, like, a little. I mean…a little.

C’mon. It’s a preseason media poll in a division that has a clear cut favorite in first place. The Coastal is basically perceived as Miami and everyone else. And everyone else is basically like…well, everyone else.

And yes, Pitt is in that mix of everyone else. In fact, the Panthers help personify it.

Just like Miami, Va. Tech, Georgia Tech, (the three teams rated in front of the Panthers, in order) and North Carolina (the team rated right behind Pitt), Pittsburgh will have a new starting QB.

Virginia Tech lost six starters on offense. So did North Carolina. And, hey… So did Pitt!

Pitt gets a break in the sense that it doesn’t have to play the three powers on the other side of the Conference. The Panthers miss Louisville, Florida State, and Clemson this year. But Va. Tech misses two of those three and gets Clemson at home. Miami misses two of those three only having to travel to play Florida State.

Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke all couldn’t crack the top 60 on defense last year in terms of yards allowed per game. But Pitt barely cracked the top 100 (#98).

The point being that a lot the reasons why you think other teams in the division may have trouble, Pitt is facing many of those same problems.

I happen to think the Panthers were under-slotted too. I’ll pick them second behind Miami. But I see them being a heckuvalot closer to Virginia Tech at #3 and North Carolina at #4 than I do Miami at #1.

Part of the reason these preseason polls get college football fans so honked off is that, unfortunately, in college football perception matters. Even perception in July. Opinions are formed early. And sometimes last a long time. So prognostication, sadly, kinda counts. Just ask Penn State fans about the results of losing a beauty competition to the S.I. Swimsuit model of the Big Ten in Columbus.

But truth be told, there are just a few perceptions out there that are impacting Pitt being viewed as a middle of the pack team as opposed to a contender to play in the ACC title game:

  • That Miami has enough talent on its roster to offset its defections to the NFL. I think it does.
  • That Max Browne isn’t as good as some of the other quarterbacks who will be replacing established starters. I think he is.
  • That Georgia Tech’s record last year was a legit reflection of the team it had and that the Yellow Jackets didn’t just get lucky a bunch of times. I don’t think that’s true.
  • That North Carolina has lost so much talent on offense, it will need a significant rebuild to contend. I think that’s partially true, but I think some of the transfer (and recruited) talent they’ve acquired will allow the Tar Heels to pull off a few upsets.

What Pitt fans hate more than anything else is that this year will be like every other. Somewhere in the middle of the pack of the division. Somewhere between 7-9 wins, plus perhaps a Bowl victory. A really good quality win or two. A let down loss and a bad upset along the way.

Sadly though, this perception of Pitt has also been its reality in recent years. And while college football allows itself to be controlled more by perception than any other sport, Pitt can change that with actual results.

Hold Miami and Oklahoma State to under 40 this year maybe? Don’t blow a lead to a Georgia Tech, Va Tech, or North Carolina as you try to jockey with them for position in the Coastal standings. Get to a showdown game with a division leader and win it.

We can all say in Pittsburgh that “Pat Narduzzi has Pitt pointed in the right direction” until we are blue in the face. And he probably does.

But that’s just another preseason perception. Just like the Panthers may have been overlooked by the ACC media. The Panthers now need to prove both in real life.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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